Parishioners holding vigil at a church to pray for detained foes of President Daniel Ortega came under attack from supporters of the government on Thursday.

The attackers used clubs, machetes, and metal bars in a Nov. 21 attack at a church in Masaya, about 20 miles southeast of Nicaragua’s capital of Managua.

“They came with pipes and machetes, they beat the altar boys and a woman and they had us surrounded in here,” said Father Harving Madina, parish priest of Masaya’s San Juan Bautista Church, the Associated Press reports.

Madina and parishioners at  San Juan Bautista had planned to march a few blocks to a nearby church, San Miguel, which is surrounded by pro-government groups. The march was intended to show support for its priest and parishioners on hunger strike seeking the release of relatives they say are political prisoners.

Their relatives were detained during protests against Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega.

A hostile group surrounded San Juan Bautista church as Mass was being celebrated, Father Madina said. The group tried to break through the doors as priests and parishioners used pews to barricade the entrance.

One 50-year-old parishioner who tried to stop the assailants was beaten by several people who then handed him over to onlooking police, who did not intervene during the disturbance.

Anti-government protests in Nicaragua began in April 2018. The crackdown from security forces and pro-government militias resulted in more than 320 deaths last year, with 2,000 injured and tens of thousands fleeing the country as refugees.

Modest pension reforms triggered the unrest but protests quickly turned to objections to what critics said was Ortega’s authoritarian bent.
Read more at Catholic News Agency 

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